Prevent Burns

Read more on A Safer Candle

Read more on First aid for burns - what to do

Read more on Living Safely

Read more on Prevent Burns


It only takes a second to happen, but a life time to overcome.


  • 256 children get burned every day in South Africa.
  • The majority of burns occur in and around the home.
  • A child’s skin is thinner than an adult’s, making them more susceptible to harsher burns with long-term effects.
  • Scalds and hot fluid burns are more likely to occur than any other burns.


  • Always place hot liquids and food in the centre of the table.
  • Never pass hot liquids and food over a child’s head.
  • Never hold a child while cooking on the stove.
  • Place kettles and cords at the back of counters and tables.
  • Turn pot handles towards the back of the stove.
  • Always open microwave containers slowly and test the food before feeding children.
  • Always put cold water in the bath first then add hot water.
  • Always test the water temperature with your elbow before putting a child in the bath.
  • Never leave small children unattended in the bathroom.
  • Teach older children about the difference between the hot and cold taps.


  • Teach your child to STOP, DROP and ROLL, if their clothes have caught alight.
  • Always supervise children near open fires, candles, paraffin lamps and portable stoves.
  • Always store matches and lighters safely, out of reach of children.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire, e.g. clothing, tablecloths, away from open flames.
  • Immediately extinguish wood and coal fires with water when you have finished using them.
  • Immediately extinguish paraffin, oil or petrol fires with sand or a fire extinguisher.


  • Avoid overloading power points and running electrical wires under carpets.
  • Cover unused outlets with safety plugs.
  • Keep electrical cords, power plugs and electrical equipment away from children.
  • Teach children to stay away from electrical sub-stations.


  1. Switch off the power supply before you touch the child.
  2. Move the child to safety using non-conductive protection like rubber gloves or a wooden plank. Do not use metal objects as you may electrocute yourself.
  3. Apply CPR if the child is not breathing and has no pulse.
  4. Cover the burnt area with a clean, non-stick dressing.
  5. Take the child to the clinic or hospital immediately.


  • Always protect children from sunburn using sunscreen, hats and umbrellas.
  • Always store chemicals away from children.
  • Keep your children safe from fireworks.


  1. Tell the child to stop moving, drop to the ground and roll to extinguish the flames.
  2. Cover the child with a blanket to smother the flames.
  3. Never remove clothing that has stuck to the skin.
  4. Remove all other loose clothing from the burn area.
  5. Cool the burn with cold running water for 20 minutes.
  6. Cover the burn with a clean, non-stick dressing.
  7. Seek medical advice immediately.


Burn Victims

  • face prolonged and painful treatment
  • are in many cases physically disabled and scarred for life.

These Injuries

  • take seconds to occur, but a lifetime to overcome
  • leave permanent blemishes

What does that matter to me?

What is a burn accident to you?Just another newspaper headline?A child can be healthy and laughing, full of vigour and an hour later be wheeled into the hospital a physical and psychological wreck for life. It could be your child … tomorrow. One mistake, one careless moment … might mean a LIFELONG ordeal for your child.Year after year burn accidents claim their death toll amongst the children of South Africa.Year after year thousands of children are admitted to hospitals, suffering severe burn injuries.The majority of burns occur in and around the home.

The answer: Prevention

  • Protect your children especially when they are small. Give them the supervision their age requires.
  • Teach children the hazards of fires and burns and teach them to avoid foreseeable dangers.
  • Set a good example. Children learn form the example set by adults around the. are you always setting a "safe" example?
  • Take care not to imperil your child through your own carelessness. Awareness, caution and knowledge is what everybody needs to prevent burn accidents.
  • Make safety part of your daily life by observing the simple rules given in this leaflet and prevent burn accidents.
  • Keep matches, candles and lighters out of reach. Matches have heads but no brains. Use yours! Matches present a real challenge to a child's natural inquisitiveness, with tragic results in many cases.
  • NEVER leave a child alone in a room with an open fire, burning candle or lamp. Such glowing objects are fascinating to a young child. They might also start a fire.
  • WRONG: A dangling tablecloth, an exciting discovery. What a hot and disastrous surprise he'll get. Use table mats instead.
  • WRONG: Hot liquids or food placed near the edge of a table can scar for life. ALWAYS put them in the centre of the table.
  • Always turn saucepan handles towards the back of the stove. Teach children to stand well away, hot fat or oil causes severe burns. Put baby a safe distance away when preparing hot meals. Never pass hot food over his head.
  • Never extinguish a fat or oil fire with water. Don't panic. Quickly switch off the stove and cover the pan with a lid, plate or wet cloth. Never use a broken or leaking paraffin or gas stove.
  • Always put cold water into the bath first. Never leave small children unattended in a bathroom. They may turn on a hot top before they know how to turn if off. Ignore the telephone or doorbell
  • Smokers, be careful. Never smoke in bed. Bedding can catch alight and start a fire which can claim the lives of your most precious possessions, your children.
  • Never pour inflammable liquids onto the fire especially when children are about. They like to imitate adults, in this case with disastrous results.
  • Keep spray cans away from any source of heat. Serious burns can be caused by the explosion. Never throw empty cans into a fire.
  • Barbecue fires should be put out with water. Hot sand burns. Badly burnt feet are no holiday treat. Children should never play around any fire places.
  • Never overload power points. This can lead to a fire. Do not run electrical wires under carpets. Hidden wear and tear is dangerous.
  • Keep electrical cord short and out of reach. Never allow children to play with power points or electrical equipment. Repair faulty plugs and frayed cords immediately.
  • Never leave children alone in a car, disused or new. Get rid of that old car in the back yard. A slight ignition could set the car ablaze in seconds. Never keep matches in the glove box.
  • Teach children not to play with fire or matches. Make sure they understand that matches are not toys and fires can burn. Teach them to stay away from anything that can burn: heaters, fires, barbecues, lighted candles and irons.

Remember, the sun can burn too. Hats and sunscreen creams are helpful, but exposure to the sun should be limited.

Some other points to remember

  • Clothes burn and so do children!
  • Loose fitting sleepwear near the stove, fireplace or heater presents a fire risk. Pyjamas are safer than nighties.
  • Choose your children's clothing carefully. Natural and heavy fabrics will ignite and burn more slowly than lightweight, sheer or synthetic fabrics.
  • Don't carry a lighted gas heater around. Never move or fill a paraffin heater or stove when alight. Fires start more quickly than you think.
  • Do not hang clothes over a heater to dry. They may begin to burn when you are not around. Never dry clothes too close to open fires
  • Never go to sleep with a burning heater, candle, lamp or fire.
  • Keep portable stoves out of reach of children, and away from curtains.
  • Never pull out the tank of a paraffin fridge while the flame is burning. To extinguish, blow only from the top of the funnel.
  • Never use flammable solvent for dry cleaning. Keep all flammable liquids away from flames. No smoking!
  • Set the thermostat on your water cylinder to a lower, safe level.
  • People prone to epileptic seizures should keep away from open fires as the flickering flames might precipitate an attack. It is easy to fall into the fire.
  • Toddlers are easily attracted by colourful teabags and pull the string. Use tagless ones instead.

Supervise and instruct older children on the correct use of matches. Explain uses and dangers. Simply forbidding them may tempt them to experiment.

Emergency Action
Teach a child to drop and roll on the floor if his clothing catches alight and to crawl on the floor to escape from thick smoke.

Emergency treatment
Minor Burns
Run under cold water until pain disappears.

Deep White Burns
Do not apply any agents to burnt areas. Cover with dry, clean sheet, seek medical aid immediately.

Chemical Burns to Skin
Wash under fast flowing water. For the burnt child the treatment is as severe as the injury.